History of Animation: Special Interest Elective

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During the spring semester, students had the opportunity to learn about the origins, process and legacy of animated film in a history of animation class. The class, taught by Chris Blair, professor of communication arts, traced animation from its beginning in the late 1800s to the early 2000s.

Gabe Hilliard, junior public relations major, said he knew he wanted to take the class from the moment he saw the poster.

“It’s kind of a weird class to take,” Gabe said. “It’s not really part of my major, but it looked so interesting and like a lot of fun.”

The class included lectures and readings, but the students also watched animated films and documentaries in class. Gabe said he grew up watching cartoons and little else, and he never grew out of them. He said he had seen most of the movies watched in class, but he was more impressed with them after learning about the roles of individual animators.

“I didn’t ever think about just how much they were the key,” Gabe said. “It relies solely on them to draw the animations. I had no idea Ub Iwerks, Chuck Jones and guys like that existed, aside from Disney, but I had seen their work.”

As part of the class, students were required to make their own short animations using traditional methods. Gabe said while working on the project he realized it is important to have an idea of the final product. He said this is something he can apply to his work in public relations.

“Even though an individual piece might not seem important, it will mess up the big picture if it isn’t done well,” he said.

Anna-Alicia Sails, a senior broadcast journalism major, said she has also liked animation since she was a child, but she knew very little about it and had not seen most of the films shown in the class. She said the process of animation was very interesting to her.

“I loved learning about the equipment and how it started with the cameras, vitascope, multi-plane cameras and all that went into it,” Anna-Alicia said. “Knowing a little more about that I think will help me in broadcasting where I’m around cameras every day.”

She said she was also fascinated by the early life of Walt Disney, and she wanted to learn even more about him after taking the class.

“At first he wasn’t very successful, but he ended up being so influential,” she said. “Just seeing his hardship and how he worked so hard, he is the epitome of never giving up.”

The history of animation class is open to all students and will be part of the new film studies major beginning this fall.

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody

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Union Family Celebrates Barefoot

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Union faculty, staff and students honored former Union president Hyran E. Barefoot at a celebration Monday in Barefoots Joe. The celebration marked the 20th anniversary of the naming of the Barefoot Student Union Building in Barefoot’s honor.

Barefoot served as president of Union from 1986 to 1996. Catherine Kwasigroh, vice president for institutional advancement, was a student at Union during that time. She said it was appropriate that the Student Union Building be named for Barefoot because of the love he had for students.

“Dr. Barefoot knew all the students in the senior class,” she said. “That was the type of president that he was. He wanted to know the students and be invested in their lives.”

Joy Moore, director of Barefoots Joe, said Barefoot’s name was also an obvious choice when naming the coffee shop. Barefoots Joe was built in 2008 after a tornado damaged much of Union’s campus.

“We were building something for the future of Union, but we wanted to remember the past and the people who made it possible,” Moore said. “Dr. Barefoot’s name points to that.”

Barefoot said he remembers vividly when the Student Union Building became a reality. He said in the early 1990s, the campus had about 2,400 students when it was designed for only 1,200.

“Some of the structures that we made at that time were not total necessities, but this building simply had to be built if we continued activity,” Barefoot said.

He said as the building was built, he was anxious to have someone give an outstanding gift in order for the building to be named in their honor.

“We suggested $2 million,” Barefoot said. “No takers. We threw out the idea of $1 million. No takers. And we simply moved on until finally I got my name put on it for $40. It’s the best bargain I ever made.”

The building was named in honor of Barefoot upon his retirement in 1996.

Barefoot said he and his wife, Joyce, were thrilled to spend time on Union’s campus Monday and celebrate what God has done through the university.

“We are very grateful for the privilege to be back here and to remember those beginning times,” he said.

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody

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Habakkuk’s Balm Art Project

Friday marked the one year anniversary of the art department’s piece, Habakkuk’s Wound, that was created to encourage the Union community to pray for one year for the martyrs in the ongoing terrorist crisis, specifically the college students who were martyred last year. As planned, the name has now been changed to declare that we do not live in vain and four trees have been planted over the red sand trench.   

HABAKKUK’S BALM

 Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights.

            Habakkuk 3:17-19

These trees mark the spot where Union’s art department created the piece Habakkuk’s Wound to call the university to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters overseas during the terrorist genocide that marks much of the beginning of the 21st century.  

Story by Lee Benson, photos by Kristi Woody.

To learn more about this project, read our news release about Habakkuk’s Wound.

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Alumna Celebrates Jackson Community

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Katie Howerton said Union taught her what community is and how important it is to the lives of the people within it.

“Union taught me how to care so much about the community I was in that now I feel inclined to care for the community I’m in at work,” she said.

Howerton is the communications manager for Our Jackson Home, an organization created to celebrate the people and the stories of Jackson, Tennessee. A 2015 Union graduate, Howerton worked on the design for the Our Jackson Home magazine as her senior project.

She said in her time in the Union community, she slowly developed a love for the Jackson community. After she graduated, she said she wanted to continue working for Our Jackson Home because of the way it speaks to Jackson.

“I knew I wanted to do it, but I knew it couldn’t just be a hobby,” Howerton said.

She said Our Jackson Home was run by volunteers, and they knew that if no one took over to run it full-time, it would not last long. They asked her if she would be interested.

“It could have become just this thing that happened in 2015 if nobody took over,” Howerton said. “They said, ‘Hey, we know that you may not be super confident, but we’re confident in you, and we’re willing to take a risk.’”

Howerton said she is glad to have had Union as a training ground for her professional career.

“On top of training to be a professional, I also was given plenty of room to be creative, which was what first allowed me to come up with the idea for Our Jackson Home (magazine) and continues to allow me to run it,” she said.

Howerton said her professors at Union gave her direction, but they also set her free to follow creative ideas. She said that has helped her as she continues to develop ideas for Our Jackson Home.

“I don’t feel aimless because I don’t have specific directions,” she said. “I’m comfortable allowing room to explore.”160422_KMW_KatieWorking009160422_KMW_KatieWorking014

Students Present Research at Scholarship Symposium

More than 300 students from across Union’s campus presented research Tuesday at the Scholarship Symposium. 

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations005Ashley Akerson, art

Ashley presented research on the importance of African-American art. She said African-American art has been seen as insignificant or inferior, but it has had great influence on culture and art.

 “African-Americans began to develop a distinctive voice to tell the story that was different than any other American story.”

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations018 Gray Magee, cell and molecular biology

Gray’s research involved a regeneration method for African mahogany, an endangered tree. He researched a process called organogenesis, where hormones are added to mature leaf tissue to create calluses which can produce viable plants.

“If we can come up with a technique of organogenesis, this could have a significant impact on the African economy.”

160426_KMW_SymposiumPresentations011 MiKalla Cotton, Christian ministry and missions

MiKalla presented her research paper titled “Created to Create: Why Do We Create.” She said people create because they are made in the image of a creator, and creativity manifests itself in different ways.

“Men and women reflect the image of the creator through making something of the world they have been given. Not only is creativity a reflection of our creator, but it also allows us to reflect him to the world around us and build up the community of creative minds in our midst.”

Read more about the Scholarship Symposium in our news release.

Story by Nathan Handley, photos by Kristi Woody, Elizabeth Wilson and David Parks.

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Meet Our Students – Part 2

Union students work hard and set lofty goals. They enjoy building community, pursuing leadership roles and having fun. Here are just a few of the stellar students we would like you to meet.

Part 1


 

Reeves Garrett

Reeves Garrett – Biblical Studies major from Brownsville, Tennessee

“I like that Union’s community as a whole is pretty organic. Students build relationships because we’re a small campus – small enough that you can know a lot of people but big enough that you can always meet someone new.”

Learn more about Reeves here.

 


 

Emily Easter

Emily Easter – conservation biology major from Hendersonville, Tennessee

“I left Union [the day that I visited], and I remember thinking, ‘How am I ever going to decide where I want to go to school if every college campus feels like this?’ And none of the other ones ever did.”

Read more of Emily’s story here.

 

 


 

Joshua Stucky

Joshua Stucky – mathematics and computer science major from Maryville, Tennessee

“Having the skills that you learn in upper level mathematics allows me to better engage in theological discussions and philosophical discussions about God’s nature.”

Read more about Joshua here.

South African Choir Visits Union

Over the past two weeks, the chamber choir from the University of Limpopo in Limpopo, South Africa, has been performing, sitting in on classes and learning about Union’s music program.

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“We are here to share experiences,” said Thabe Matsebatlela, director of the choir. “It has been an opportunity for us to gain a wider view of music and culture and share our music with other musicians here.”

Matsebatlela has a doctorate degree in biology and teaches biochemistry, life sciences and medicine at the University of Limpopo. He met Chris Mathews, professor of music and department chair, when they sang in choirs together during his studies at Clemson University.

He started the chamber choir in 2010, but Limpopo does not have a music program. He said one of the goals of the visit to Union was to learn about how a formal music program operates at a university so he can start one at Limpopo.

The chamber choir consists of about 60 members. Aza Ngcwabe, the chairperson of the choir, is studying economics. She said music is a valuable part of her life, and she sees it as more than a hobby.

“Music takes you into a different world,” she said. “If I am anxious or sad, all emotions go away when I am in the music.”

Ngcwabe said she is interested in American music and the way it is performed. She said she has enjoyed seeing how a music department operates.

Tebele Letsoala was the first chairperson of the choir. He works in computer science in Johannesburg but was invited to join the choir on its visit to Union. He said sitting in on classes and performances at Union has changed his way of thinking about music.

“What is most exhilarating is the way we are being received,” Letsoala said. “The students here are fascinated by our music, as we are fascinated by theirs.”

In addition to classes at Union, the choir visited local schools and performed for their students. Matsebatlela said the best part of the experience has come outside the structured class and performance times.

“The students have met many people,” he said. “They have had a wonderful time interacting outside the music.”

Matsebatlela said he is excited to take what the students have learned back to Limpopo and incorporate it into their work there.

Story by Nathan Handley, Photos by Kristi Woody and Gretchen Foels

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The Limpopo choir checks out their feature in the local newspaper, The Jackson Sun, before boarding the bus to perform at Jackson Christian School.

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The choir rehearses songs in Jennings Hall with Chris Mathews.

Students Invited into Faculty, Staff Homes for Be Our Guest

Six students gathered around a meal of beef bourguignon, risotto and homemade bread at David and Nancy Thomas’ home last week.

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The meal was part of Be Our Guest, where faculty and staff invite students into their homes for an evening of food and fellowship. More than 20 faculty and staff members had students in their homes as part of the event.

“Be Our Guest allows the faculty and staff another way to care for the students,” said Grace Pepper, senior English literature major. “By welcoming us into their homes, preparing delicious food and engaging us in lively conversation, they demonstrate their desire, even outside of the classroom, to cultivate relationships with us.”

Grace, one of the students at the Thomas’ house, said she especially enjoyed the conversation at the dinner table, which ranged from Neil Young to the Memphis botanical gardens to Seinfeld. She has been a guest at the Thomas’ house for the past three years, and she said they are always generous and hospitable.

“My evenings at their home have become some of my favorite in my time at Union,” Grace said. “The company is always most delightful, and the food is an added bonus.”

Beth Adams, junior English and history major, was also a guest at the Thomas’ home.

Beth chose to go to their house after getting to know Dr. Thomas through his class on the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.

“I love any opportunity to talk with both Dr. and Mrs. Thomas,” she said. “My favorite part of the evening was after dinner, when we all ventured into the living room to browse their bookshelves and share book recommendations.”

Beth said she was glad to see every student included in the conversation. She said Be Our Guest demonstrates that Union’s faculty and staff care genuinely for their students.

“When faculty and staff members take time to connect with students outside of the classroom, we students learn so much more,” she said.

Story by Nathan Handley, Photos by Kristi Woody

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Meet Our Alumni – Part 1

Union University is known for shaping the next generation of great leaders. Our alums go on to elite graduate schools, meaningful careers and mission and ministry opportunities around the world. There are scores of Union alums doing amazing things, and here are some we would like you to meet.


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“Union gave me the confidence to apply for opportunities that were outside my comfort zone. I had always been a good student, but Union really helped me thrive as a leader. It’s the combination of a small student body, really supportive professors, spiritual growth and great opportunities within campus — I felt like I could try new things and succeed.” – Claudia Valasco (’13) – Client Solutions Manager, EMC Corp., London  

Learn more about Claudia’s work with EMC Corp here.


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“Union allows you to feel valued. I felt that I truly mattered as a member of this community and, in turn, it gave me a desire to serve that community. Union felt like home.” – James Barbee (’13) – Math Teacher, Lauderdale Middle School, Ripley, Tenn.

Read more about James’ goals as an educator here.


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“Choosing a college is one of the most significant decisions you will make, because the friendships and relationships you form in college are likely going to be some of the most important and lasting relationships you’ll have throughout your life. And I can’t think of a better place than Union University to find and form those kinds of relationships. Not to mention, you’ll receive a top-tier Christian education at one of the finest undergraduate institutions in the country.” – Justin Wainscott (’02) – Pastor, First Baptist Church, Jackson, Tenn.

Learn more about Justin’s journey to becoming a pastor here.

Scholars of Excellence Share Experiences

About 100 high school seniors took part in the Scholars of Excellence program at Union last weekend. The students competed for Union’s top academic scholarships through personal interviews, group discussions of C. S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man” and hot topic discussions about current events and controversies.

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Scholars of Excellence Check-in

The competitors stayed in campus housing with student hosts and participated in campus activities throughout the weekend.

Alli Herring, a participant from Olive Branch, Mississippi, said she was glad to have the opportunity to learn more about Union’s campus and goals over the weekend. She said she was nervous about the interviews, but it was a good experience.

“Everyone is just so friendly and wants to talk to you and learn about where you’re from and what your plans are,” she said.

Ben Noland, a student from Pensacola, Florida, said he heard about Union after reading an article by Dr. Hal Poe in Christianity Today. He said he was hoping to get a better picture of Union’s values over the weekend.

“I can say I’ve been incredibly impressed,” he said. “The students and professors are so incredibly kind.”

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Dinner with faculty and the president

Harrison Holt, a Jackson native, said he has spent a lot of time around Union and its students, and he thinks it would be a good fit for him.

“A lot of my mentors have been Union students,” he said. “So I thought it was worth my time to come here. A lot of the people I’ve had interactions with are people I want to be like.”

Olivia Coffman of Milan, Tennessee, said she has also been aware of Union for most of her life, and has always thought highly of the university. She said she enjoyed staying in student housing and meeting other students.

“Everybody was able to speak about God just in natural conversation because he’s such a big part of their lives,” she said. “It was really nice to feel so accepted and loved instantly.”

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Personal interview time and games in the waiting area

Story by Nathan Handley, Photos by Kristi Woody